Ig and T cell receptor rearrangements have been used as irreversible markers of lineage and clonality in the study of B- and T-lymphoid populations. We have addressed the issue of lymphoid lineage specificity of these rearrangements by analyzing a panel of 25 TdT- acute myelogenous leukemias, 13 TdT+ AMLs, and 4 TdT+ undifferentiated leukemias. We report that while gene rearrangements represent extremely rare events in classical TdT- AML (less than 8%), rearrangements of either the Ig or T beta locus or both were detectable in the majority of the TdT+ AMLs (greater than 60%), and rearrangements of both loci were detectable in all of the TdT+ undifferentiated leukemias. These data demonstrate a significant association between TdT expression and Ig or T beta gene rearrangements even outside the lymphoid lineage, further supporting a role for TdT in Ig and T cell receptor gene assembly. These data also indicate that a coordinated program of lymphoid gene expression involving TdT-CD7-expression and Ig/T beta rearrangements can be activated before myeloid commitment. Whether the activation of this program represents a normal, albeit rare, event in early myelopoiesis or a transformation-related event present only in leukemic cells remains to be determined.

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